Last year was one of the busiest years on record for businesses and organizations that help immigrants arrive and settle in Canada, and the immigration boom is just beginning.
The country welcomed a whopping 431,645 new permanent residents in 2022, and Ottawa plans to add as many as 500,000 immigrants to the country on an annual basis.
This unprecedented influx of immigrants promises to be a key economic driver for Metro Vancouver, B.C. and Canada. But researchers and those on the frontlines of immigration caution that data, funding, protections and planning are needed to ensure the rising tide of population growth lifts all boats.
At S.U.C.C.E.S.S., one of the province’s largest newcomer services non-profit organizations, there are now wait lists – although usually limited to one or two weeks – for almost all of the organization’s programs, which range from language aid and job assistance, to credential recognition, said CEO Queenie Choo.
“We are over-subscribed in all our service locations,” Choo said. “Over the last two-and-a-half years, the international travel restrictions and the visa office slowdowns [due to the pandemic] has meant that many immigrants were able to actually arrive in Canada even though we were in the process of visa approval.
“So the numbers we are seeing now is not just the increased number of newcomers this year, but also the backlog of people we need to do catch-up on from the pandemic. Add on the Afghan and Ukrainian arrivals, and this is very much an unprecedented era – and we hope the resources dedicated to these causes are in alignment with the increasing numbers.”
Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland of the Kurland Tobe law firm said Canada’s large, record-breaking immigration numbers extend beyond the new permanent resident numbers announced by Ottawa. He noted that in recent years, Canada has dramatically altered its immigration policy, tripling the inventory of temporary-status people in Canada while changing rules to make it nearly impossible for people who are not already working or studying in Canada to qualify for permanent residency.
“What this means is that the number of foreign workers and students ballooned from about 1.2 million around six years ago to over 3.2 million today,” Kurland said. “From that inventory, Canada will select about 500,000 people as permanent residents next year.”